A study produced by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies examined census tracts in one New Mexico county, and found significant differences between non-white areas with concentrated poverty and wealthier and whiter parts of the county in terms of a wide variety of health outcomes. Differences include:
- The percentage of low-birth-weight infants varies widely (by a factor of 12) across all of the census tracts studied
- Non-white and low-income tracts have higher concentrations of air pollution and toxic industrial waste than the county overall
- Life expectancy varies by 22 years across all of the studied tracts
The researchers note that they did not necessarily find a causal relationship between conditions in a neighborhood in which one lives and health outcomes, but these stark findings are consistent with the growing national consensus that, in this report’s words, “the clustering of social, economic, and environmental health risks in low-income and non-white neighborhoods makes it more difficult for people in these communities to live healthy lives.” In other words, even individually healthy people are at higher risk for bad medical outcomes where disadvantage is concentrated. A more detailed explanation of how the study came about, effective illustrations of the extent of inequality in Bernalillo County, and an explanation of the policies that could alleviate health disparities there, are available in the full report (PDF).